Tibet

Tibet, the northernmost of the South Asian countries, occupies the northern slopes of the Himalayas and the high Tibetan plateau. Historically, Tibet has been largely isolated from foreign influences, but traded with China (as well as with India, via trans-Himalayan caravan routes). Consequently, numerous aspects of Chinese culture are visible through the silk weaves, images, symbols, and some basic garment forms throughout much of Tibet's textiles and dress. Generally Tibetan people wear long, side-closing robes called phyu-pa for the sleeveless type and chupa for the long-sleeved robes, long sleeveless vests, jackets, sashes, aprons, and hats, with long fleece coats and high boots in cold weather. Types and qualities of materials were dictated by (and proclaimed) the wearer's status in Tibet's once highly stratified society. Garments are made of brocaded silk, wool, cotton and fleeced-lined hide.

Pastoralists of both genders wear leather robes, with the fleece side against the skin. In hot weather, men pull the robes back over one or both shoulders and tie the sleeves at the waist. Sewn by men, these hide garments are called lokbar. Women's lokbar are frequently trimmed with colored cloth bands at hem and cuffs. Buddhist personnel wear garments with distinctive details to indicate hierarchy and roles. The shape of the hat distinguishes monastic orders. The Buddhist monk's common garment is called kasaya. The inner kasaya is yellow and the outer one is deep red/maroon. Worn in pairs, the large rectangular kasaya are topped with a cloak in the winter. High-ranking lamas wear yellow silk, often lotus flower-brocaded robes, embroidered vests, tall brocade boots, and golden hats appropriate to their station when traveling. Religious festivals, performances and ceremonies call for special dress, masks, and headgear.

Among the most distinctive Tibetan fabrics are those used in women's aprons, called bangdian, which consist of three or four parts stitched together. Rectangular and trapezoidal, these aprons are usually made of hand-woven cotton with contrasting color stripes.

Due to increased Chinese immigration into Tibet and sweeping social changes, the ancient hierarchical rules that once dictated rigid Tibetan forms of dress have disappeared. Globalization in the form of more readily available Chinese garments and mill-woven and brightly printed cottons has led to changes in dress. Frequently, women in the early 2000s wear printed blouses under their chuba or lokbar, and urbanites generally prefer more subtle color schemes and streamlined silhouettes. In response to the flood of Chinese goods, many Tibetans are making efforts to not lose their traditional dress and weaving skills.

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